Posted on: November 27, 2013
Happy first night of Hanukkah, friends!
Tonight, I’m sharing a video by my new FB friend Nissim. He’s a rapper and Orthodox convert to Judaism living and working in Seattle, WA. you can read about his life and conversion on Aish.
Check out his amazing video.
Posted on: November 14, 2013
Answer- It’s not.
Noah, a new epic starring Russell Crowe as the man in the ark, is slated for release in late March 2014. And while the trailer looks awesome and I’m definitely going to see it, I can’t help but notice how fricking white everyone is.
I’m not a militant black person.
I’m not an angry black woman.
I don’t think the white man is the devil.
I have a fairly good understanding of migration and how that factors into the varied races that have spread across the globe.
It’s no secret that I do like to get up in arms about latkes, the prevalence of Askhenazic culture as the North Star of Judaism, flawed population studies in relation to Jews of Color and an inadequate representation of what Jews look like and who JOCs are. But, you can’t take a story ripped from Genesis, which takes place roughly between modern-day Turkey and Iraq, and throw in some white folks. With British accents, at that and call it historically accurate.
Posted on: November 8, 2013
For the past few weeks I’ve gotten to shul and been disappointed. Not because our rabbi isn’t awesome, because he is…it’s just that it’s not quite the same without our song director. I’ve written about Joey a few times and I’d be lying if I said that he wasn’t the reason I joined the shul. I’ve gone so far as to say that where ever he went I would go. Very Ruth. So when I called and found out that he wasn’t going anywhere, per se, he just wasn’t there, I was left in spiritual shambles.
I called and asked the person on the other end who would be leading evening services and she told me the rabbi would. “Well, will Joey be there?” I asked.
“No,” she told me. “Joey’s no longer leading service so that he can spend more time with his family.”
I hung up the phone and felt a huge pit in my stomach. And while I know that the whole of my spiritual fulfillment shouldn’t lay in the incredibly moving niggunim of one man, I felt like crying.
If you’ve ever experienced a Joey Weisenberg Shabbat evening then you know what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, it’s like…going to hear the President speak and getting Joe Biden instead. It’s like getting tickets for a Fleetwood Mac reunion without Stevie Nicks. It’s like latkes without apple sauce (or sour cream).
Joking aside, I shed a single tear. Because I know that I’ll have to, once again, find a new shul. A shul where I may have to explain my presence, a shul where I’ll have to prove myself. A shul where they don’t already know my name.
Does it seem a bit much to throw the entire shul away because of a song director? Perhaps, but then again, you probably haven’t experienced the magic that is Joey.
Posted on: November 2, 2013
This week’s parasha is Toldot-when Esau sells his birthright to his brother, Jacob.
Isaac and his family have still remained for quite some time in the land.
1 There was a famine in the land-aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham-and Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar. 2 The Lord had appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you. 3 Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your heirs as numerous as the stars of heaven, and assign to your heirs all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirs- 5 inasmuch as Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws, and My teachings.”
6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar… before going to Beersheba…23 From there he went up to Beer-sheba.
But they’re both in Israel so not much moving around. What I do find interesting is that Isaac sends for a daughter for his son Jacob, just as Abraham had sent for Rebekah, “from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” While they are living among the Canaanites, they do not take wives with them. So he sends his servant back to Paddan Aram, modern-day Turkey, to find a suitable wife.
What I find interesting is at the end of the parasha Esau also finds a wife. Chapter 28 says, “6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, charging him, as he blessed him, “You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and gone to Paddan-aram, 8 Esau realized that the Canaanite women displeased his father Isaac. 9 So Esau went to Ishmael and took to wife, in addition to the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, sister of Nebaioth.”
Based on this Esau already haves wives, presumably Canaanite wives that displease his parents, Chapter 26, “34 When Esau was forty years old, he took to wife Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they were a source of bitterness to Isaac and Rebekah.” Yet, it would seem that the Hittite people are from the same, approximate, region of Turkey that Isaac and Rebekah are seeking a daughter for their younger son.
So is this bitterness more a cultural or religious bitterness?
It seems unlikely that Esau would marry someone from another religion.
Thoughts on this, cause I’ve always been confused by the “bitterness” piece.
Shabbat Shalom, ya’ll!
Posted on: November 1, 2013
…2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba-now Hebron-in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her. 3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead, and spoke to the Hittites, saying, 4 ”I am a resident alien among you; sell me a burial site among you, that I may remove my dead for burial.” 5 And the Hittites replied to Abraham, saying to him, 6 ”Hear us, my lord: you are the elect of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places; none of us will withhold his burial place from you for burying your dead.” 7 Thereupon Abraham bowed low to the people of the land, the Hittites, 8 and he said to them, “If it is your wish that I remove my dead for burial, you must agree to intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar. 9 Let him sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, which is at the edge of his land. Let him sell it to me, at the full price, for a burial site in your midst.”..
…17 So Ephron’s land in Machpelah, near Mamre-the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the confines of that field-passed 18 to Abraham as his possession, in the presence of the Hittites, of all who entered the gate of his town. 19 And then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre-now Hebron-in the land of Canaan…
1 Abraham was now old, advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Put your hand under my thigh 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
…10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and set out, taking with him all the bounty of his master; and he made his way to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. 11 He made the camels kneel down by the well outside the city, at evening time, the time when women come out to draw water. 12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, grant me good fortune this day, and deal graciously with my master Abraham: 13 Here I stand by the spring as the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water;14 let the maiden to whom I say, ‘Please, lower your jar that I may drink,’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels’-let her be the one whom You have decreed for Your servant Isaac. Thereby shall I know that You have dealt graciously with my master.”
15 He had scarcely finished speaking, when Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, the son of Milcah the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. 16 The maiden was very beautiful, a virgin whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. 17 The servant ran toward her and said, “Please, let me sip a little water from your jar.” 18 ”Drink, my lord,” she said, and she quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and let him drink. 19 When she had let him drink his fill, she said, “I will also draw for your camels, until they finish drinking.” 20 Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels…
Posted on: October 29, 2013
A few weeks ago I got the following questions from a reader I’ll call C. C and I have emailed a few times back and forth about conversion to Judaism and coming out and the guilt we feel by hurting our loved ones.
Perhaps two, maybe three years ago I was home for a visit with my family. My mother and father took us to a popular seafood restaurant in downtown Toledo. Since it was a nice day, we sat outside and ate our meal. I don’t remember if I’d formally converted yet, but my father looked at me and said, “I don’t believe that you’re gay and I don’t believe that you’re Jewish. You’re not those things to me.”
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I said it in a tone that caused my mother to get up from the table and several patrons to look at us. I didn’t raise my voice, I stood up to my father, something I’d only done one other time in my life. Standing up to him had the same result this time as it had the first time I spoke to him adult-to-adult rather than father-to-daughter, a look I still can’t put my finger on. A combination of hurt, shock, anger and satisfaction. He’d raised me and I’m my father’s daughter. And no one, not even my father, will talk shit about who and what I am without getting an verbally articulate slap in the face.
As I stood up to leave him to think about what I said, I pulled $20s from my wallet and dropped them on the table. I got in the car I rented and headed to the metro park that I found solace in as a teenager. I stayed late into the evening and when I got home he said nothing to me but my mother gave me a sly grin.
He hasn’t mentioned it again and instead asks how Miriam is doing when we talk on the phone.
I’m not saying that every coming out story has a happy ending. Just as not every mother whose child “abandons” the religion of their birth eventually understands the choice. What I am saying is that you can never be truly happy in your own skin if you’re not true to who you are, no matter how badly it hurts the people around us when we live our truth.
Posted on: October 28, 2013
Over the weekend, while skimming through my Pinterest on my smart phone at a Brooklyn Hospital while an epidural let one of my doula clients sleep blissfully through contractions that earlier in the morning caused her much pain, fear and anxiety, I noticed a rather disturbing thread on my “I do” board.
I found my Pinterest dream, a interracial, lesbian couple under the chuppah on their wedding day. It wasn’t a stock photo, it wasn’t a joke, it was an actual wedding that could, one day, look a lot like our wedding.
Someone commented that the picture was “weird” and another commented that it was beautiful. There was some back and forth and the “weird” pinner noted that while she had no problem with “their race” she found the fact that they were two women “disgusting” and went on to say that Moses and everyone in the bible would think the same. I, of course, deleted her hateful comments, but found it interesting that among all of the other pictures of lesbians under their own chuppah, wrapped in tallit on glorious wedding days she found this picture disgusting. Maybe she was Googling interracial Jews or lesbian Jews-I really have no clue, but I did find it a bit strange that she honed in on this particular photo.
I suppose I’ll never understand why marriage between two consenting adults is so problematic or threatening to individuals for which the relationship has no bearing. I also don’t understand why people hid behind profiles and religion in order to spread evil and hateful speech. It almost dampened my mood, but then I was reminded of the beauty of life I was about to experience and the love of my life.
Posted on: October 24, 2013
Va-Yera Genesis 18:1 – 22:24
This translation was taken from the JPS Tanakh
1 Abraham journeyed from there to the region of the Negeb and settled between Kadesh and Shur. ld of Abimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.
1 The Lord took note of Sarah as He had promised, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. 2 Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken. 3 Abraham gave his newborn son, whom Sarah had borne him, the name of Isaac. 4 And when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him. 5 Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she added,
Who would have said to Abraham That Sarah would suckle children! Yet I have borne a son in his old age.”
8 The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
9 Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. 10 She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you. 13 As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.”
14 Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, 16 and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears…
Posted on: October 10, 2013
And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. א. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל אַבְרָם לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ:
Go forth: Heb. לֶךְ לְךָ, lit. go to you, for your benefit and for your good, and there I will make you into a great nation, but here, you will not merit to have children. Moreover, I will make your character known in the world. — [from Rosh Hashanah 16b, Tan.]
לך לך: להנאתך ולטובתך, ושם אעשך לגוי גדול, וכאן אי אתה זוכה לבנים. ועוד שאודיע טבעך בעולם:
from your land: Now had he not already gone out of there with his father and come as far as Haran? Rather, thus did He say to him, “Distance yourself more from there and leave your father’s house.”
מארצך: והלא כבר יצא משם עם אביו ובא עד לחרן, אלא כך אמר לו התרחק עוד משם וצא מבית אביך:
that I will show you: He did not reveal the land to him immediately, in order to make it dear in his eyes and to give him reward for every command. Similarly (below 22:2): “your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac.” Similarly (ibid.): “on one of the mountains that I will say to you.” Similarly (Jonah 3:2): “and proclaim upon it the proclamation that I will speak to you.” [from Gen. Rabbah 39:9]
אל הארץ אשר אראך: לא גלה לו הארץ מיד, כדי לחבבה בעיניו, ולתת לו שכר על כל דבור ודבור. כיוצא בו (בראשית כב ב) את בנך את יחידך אשר אהבת את יצחק, כיוצא בו (כב ב) על אחד ההרים אשר אומר אליך, כיוצא בו (יונה ג ב)
This morning on the train I re-read Lekh Lekha, admittedly for the first time since the last time I took up this venture. It’s interesting to read and reread the same passages year after year and to discover passages that you previously skimmed through. There were many verses that I highlighted on the train that I have questions about…but for the time being we’ll focus on the Jewish Geography Project.
Lekh Lekha, Genesis Chapters 12:1-17:27, is one of the most pivotal texts in the Torah. It’s the text in which Gd speaks to Abram and tells him to go into the wilderness to the land that He will show. It is this passage that is at the crux of the dispute between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Who owns the land? To whom was it promised? Who has the rights to it?
We’ve traveled over 13,800 miles! Let’s talk about that first and the land ownership…issue? later.
The purpose of the Jewish Geography Project is to paint a picture of what our earliest Jewish ancestors looked like to challenge the notion of what a Jew looks like using Torah, the backbone of our faith, as a guide. We left our ancient people right around modern-day Turkey.
We’ve added another 973 miles to Canaan and we haven’t stopped yet!
Posted on: October 9, 2013
Judaism has a Pagan side?
Really? You had to ask that? Judaism is totally, totally Pagan, though I’m sure most Jews wouldn’t say that and most certainly disagree with my assertion so I’ll say it in Jew-friendly terms. Judaism is very agricultural.
Before I was a Jew I was an Episcopalian. Before I was Episcopalian I was a bad atheist. Before I was a bad atheist I was a Pagan. That’s right, I was a sneaking into metro parks on a full moon eve with my crew of Wiccan ladies, circle drawing, corner calling, tree hugging, talisman wearing, stone holding Pagan girl.
I personally think that on the road to Lesbian one finds a pit stop in the land of Wicca, but that’s a different blog post.
I was drawn to Wicca because of its women-centeredness, because of its earth-based focus and because I was looking for something older than Christianity and at the time, older even than Judaism. I wanted to find the source.
I spent a few years as a Wiccan, I’d say towards the end of my senior year of high school (the Catholic high school that was rumored to have expelled two of my classmates when Wiccan books were found in their lockers) into my first two years of college. In high school I lived in a little world of my own, venturing into New Age and Wiccan shops to buy my wears. In college I found a group of women through an awesome nun, of all people. She actually taught about Wicca and invited a Wiccan Priestess into our Religion course.
I have vivid, fun memories of doing amazing things with these women-everything from late night ski trips to attending Circles to breaking into parks on a full moon to ditch our clothes and worship.
It was a great time in my life. It was woman and earth centered and it allowed me to think about religion and religious practice in a way that was very different from what I grew up with, which in turn allowed me to appreciate and respect people of all faiths.
So what does that have to do with Judaism? Everything.
While converting I kept my mouth shut about how Pagan Judaism seemed to me.
Our days start at night?
We follow a lunar calendar?
We celebrate full and new moons?
Our holidays are based around seasonal and agricultural changes?
Sure, okay Torah says so. Yes, rabbi. But I’d be thinking, This is so, fantastically Pagan!
I kept these thoughts to myself until we learned about Sukkot.
“So you grasp the lulav and the etrog in your hand”, my rabbi said. “And you shake them in each direction-North, East, South and West while reciting a blessing…”
My hand shot up.
“It’s so Pagan!”
“It is,” she said.*
The fact remains that Judaism, our practices our holidays, our traditions are very close to the earth, the seasons, the moon. We shake leaves and sticks, we light candles at night, we have symbols and superstitions, we grab chickens by their legs and swing them over our heads! Well, some of us do that.
We have special clothes that we wear for special occasions, we pray in a language foreign to some, we stand up, sit down and bow while we pray. And while I wish Judaism was more woman-centered, it makes my little Pagan heart swell with happiness every Rosh Chodesh, new moon; When I have to search for three stars to make havdallah; When I’m stopped on the street by Chabad on Sukkot and asked to shake the lulav and etrog.
I still have a lot of respect and a bit of longing for my Wiccan days. I miss the wonderful woman-centeredness, but find so much joy and love in Judaism-especially when I’m in Falls Village close to nature and with Jews who love full moon howling just as much as I do.
It is this respect for my Pagan past and my sisters and brothers who are Pagan that I am slightly concerned, if not a bit intrigued by the new FX Series American Horror Story: Coven. Will I watch it, yes, but I’m a bit skeptical.
*the conversation with my rabbi basically went like that